Hebrews 12-13, James 1

"Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. So what it says."  James 1:22, NIV 

If you have made it this far in the 90 day challenge to study through the New Testament, then you have done something that probably less the 90% of the population has ever done. The question is, what will you do with this knowledge that you are gaining? By now you have seen for yourself the love of God, the wisdom of His way, and the requirement to actually do what He commands.

James could not have put it any clearer: If we are listening to the word but not doing what it says, we are deceiving ourselves. That means that God does require works! He always has. I know that it is fashionable to go to Ephesians 2:8 to prove that God does not require works, so lets go there right now. The passage reads like this:

"For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8&9, NIV 

I like this verse because it shows the saving power of God's grace. It also shows that we do not have to earn our salvation, which should be a relief to us all. But please understand this: This passage does not exclude the requirement for works, it just points out that we are not saved by works. Don't believe that? Then look at what the very next verse of this passage says:

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Now be realistic here - do you really think that God would have created you to do good works if He did not want you to work? I honestly do not believe that many people even know that verse is in the Bible. They have been taught for so many years that we are saved by grace (very true - it's in the Bible) but they have also been convinced that works are not needed (absolutely false -the Bible teaches us that we were created in Christ to do good works.)

Now the point of all this is not to depreciate grace - it is merely to point out that grace was never intended to be some sort of perverse spiritual welfare system for the perpetually lazy. The teaching is that we do not deserve or earn salvation - thus the word grace. But we are required to do good works, in fact, that is exactly what the passage says we were created in Christ Jesus for.

That's why James tells us not to be so deceived that we merely listen to the word, and that is why it would be futile for us to do this much reading and studying of the New Testament to gather all of this information without acting on it: We are gathering this information for a purpose and that purpose is to do it! That's why James, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, finished this passage in this way:

 

"Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it - he will be blessed in what he does."  James 1:23-25, NIV